Friday, March 8, 2013

PET WRITING PEEVES


My Pet Writing Peev?

 

It’s the group of questions those who go out to work always seem obsessed by:

 “What sort of routine do you have?” “When do you write?” “Do you get to the desk at 9 like the rest of us?”

The short answers are “None.” “Um!” and “No.”

The actuality is, as we all know, far more complicated. It’s impossible to make people understand that while you know writing is 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration, sometimes compromise is necessary.

The neurosurgeon cannot say she’ll tackle that difficult case on Monday, if the patient will have died in the meantime. Certainly if we leave a character too long then they might have gone off to character limbo and be reluctant to resume residence in our WIP, but they won’t be dead to our imaginations. The shade of their ephemeral being will still linger in our brains and when we ask the questions we asked before, that character will rise from literary limbo and stride across the pages – or limp, dance, skip, if that's more their sort of thing.

More than ever, the writer has to set aside their WIP in order to do publicity and promotion or to do writing related work that earns regular cash. So few of us will be sitting down at 9am with the characters and ambling through chapter whatever.

Consequently, a lot of writing may not take place in surroundings that resemble an office. Snatched moments sitting beside the pool – while the children have a swimming lesson; an oasis of fifteen when your friend hasn’t arrived at the coffee shop or sitting on the bus to work where you can screen out the rest of the passengers and sort out the plot glitch that’s been troubling you. None of that comes under routine, but it does create copy.

As a playwright, I have often had to write to the side of a rehearsal. The actor might say, “but I don’t understand,” and, Oh Woe! They’re right. You need to get the head down and sort it out. Believe me, you don’t want an actor making up what they think should go in there.

So give us a break, readers and play-goers, the creative imagination may not respond to routine and regular hours, but it never truly sleeps. Or if it does, the dreams are set down on waking.
 
                                                                                       Anne Stenhouse
 
 
 

24 comments:

Raven McAllan said...

It's the old question, how much money do you make? Do you mind if I ask you if it pays well. Actually I do mind, how would you like it if I ask you YOUR salary. I swear I'm going to next time

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I guess people who don't write are so puzzled by it all that they have to ask such frustrating questions!

Anne Stenhouse said...

Hi Raven, Yes, that's the one Lea put up first. I think most of us would have gone for it, if it hadn't been taken. Anne

Anne Stenhouse said...

Hi Rosemary, I think creative process is puzzling and it's probably better people show some interest than none. Anne

Gwen Kirkwood said...

You're right Anne, compromise is the answer but people who do not write have no idea how much mental energy it takes. Even if we could isolate ourselves from real life we would make very dull writers without emotion or excitement, or even frustration.

Joan Fleming said...

Anne, I do think people have a completely wrong picture of how writers spend their day. I would be happy if, having asked the questions, they listened to - and believed - the answers.

Gill Stewart said...

I find one way to answer this is to go into detail how much time it takes to plan, build characters, muse on plot, not to mention tidy the desk and do absolutely everything else that needs doing before I actually put pen to keyboard... by the time I'm half way through that they've wished they never asked!

helenafairfax.com said...

I enjoyed your post, Anne. Sometimes it's hard to convince people you're working if you seem to be just staring into space. But it's nice when people show an interest in where ideas come from

Anne Stenhouse said...

Hi Gwen,thanks for dropping by. Is there a hint of something in that remark about frustration? I know I can experience it quite badly. Anne

Anne Stenhouse said...

Hi Joan, are you thinking of the 'I must write a novel sometime,' brigade? As you say,just listening to the answers would put a lot of people off, or onto the right track. Anne

Anne Stenhouse said...

Hi Gill, nice insight into your writing life there. I can't claim to tidy very much or very often, but I have other displacement activities. Reserach is the biggy. Anne

Anne Stenhouse said...

Hi Helena, staring into space is probably de rigeur for writers. There's a British writer who spends a lot of time in the bath - working. Formulating goes on in the brain all the time. Anne

myraduffy said...

And what people fail to realise is that each writer is different and it can take a long time to find out what works best for you!

Marsha said...

What a great post, Anne. Thanks for sending a reminder to our authors' loop. I love how you put words to gether, too. All good comments here, but I love what you said, Myra. We're all different about how we go about this business. I'm seldom at a loss for words, but when anyone asks me, I tend to go tongue tied. The process is so complex. Oh, my goodness. Maybe I need to develop a blurb for the process. LOL One of those short 20-word deals so hard to come up with for our books. Off to work. Thanks, Anne.

Anne Stenhouse said...

Hi Myra, Yes, we are all different and there isn't a how-to formula. I think I work best in bursts of disciplined writing. Then, the momentum goes. Of course, deadlines are a big, big help. Anne

Anne Stenhouse said...

Hi Marsha, the idea of having a 20-word deal explaining waht we do is attractive. I just mumble something incoherent at present, so it would help. Thank you so much for your kind words about the post. It's my first on anyone else's blog, so I was trying really hard. Anne

KatieC said...

How funny to read this post today! I literally just now posted about this on FB for all my family and friends to understand!

Anne Stenhouse said...

Hi Katie, I guess it's something many artists have in common. Thanks for dropping by, Anne

Jenny Harper said...

A good walk can sort out a lot of plot or character problems, I find. Or a game of golf. There again, they might just be procrastination! I'm with Gwen - if you don't experience life, you'll have nothing to write about. Nice post, Anne!

Wendy said...

Wouldn't it be lovely, as a writer, to 'go to work' every day. Dressed in work clothes, be at the desk by 9am. Continue, without distraction, quality writing where we leftoff the night before. Stop for morning tea and lunch with no thought of 'words' during the break. Return to desk and continue until 5:00pm then turn off the computer and the characters, and live a normal life until 'work' the next day. Why can't a writer's life be like this? :)

Anne Stenhouse said...

Hi Jenny, the reason I often travel by bus rather than take the car, is to listen in and observe real life. Fresh air, too, is great for concentration induced stress. Anne

Anne Stenhouse said...

Oh Wendy, that's a fantasy, isn't it? Anne

Pat McDermott said...

Great post, Anne. I watch people talking on their cell phones all over the place and think how crazy they look, as if they're talking to themselves. Me, I'm talking to people too, but silently, without a phone. Yes, even away from the desk, a writer is always writing. Congrats on your upcoming release!

Anne Stenhouse said...

Hi Pat, thanks for your kind words - and also(?) for the invite onto our FB page. I'm sure the reason I wrote plays is the way I go over and over a conversation, crafting it, getting the last bit of juice out of the fruit. If we're talking to ourselves out there, it has to be more wrothwhile than all those 'I'm on the bus' type convrsations that pass for conversation. Anne